The second part in a series of interviews from DaVinci Magazine.
Interviewer: You told us that it’s important to “make the fans be connected emotionally to matches.” You have fought against Tanahashi three times this year, we believe that many of the fans were watching these matches with high emotions. What do you think of Tanahashi, whom you used to look up at?
Naito: Hmm… I joined New Japan because I was inspired by him. I came to where I am now by chasing him. However, I already surpassed him, completely. It’s sad that I can’t chase him anymore, but I hope he gets his spark back. But, I’m sure that’s impossible now.
Interviewer: Why do you want him to have a comeback instead of just leaving him behind?
Naito: Because Tanahashi once inspired me, very much.
Interviewer: Which aspect of his motivated you the most?
Naito: Well…he was much weaker in his first two years after his debut, compared to the other wrestlers of the same generation. He obviously had less athletic ability, but he was giving it his all. He even tried to start a new movement by teaming up with other younger wrestlers, I liked that attitude. However, he was never strong enough to make anything happen, but he kept trying. He made me intrigued by his sincere attitude about pro-wrestling.
Interviewer: What did you think when you fought against him for the first time?
Naito: When I first fought against Tanahashi, about two years after my debut, I didn’t feel an overbearing strength. But it wasn’t because he was cutting corners. He could put his strength into it when he needed to. On the other hand, he could let his body go limp when he needed to. That’s what I recall from our first time match. It was something special that I had never felt from any of the other young ones.
Interviewer: Tell us about your biggest match.
Naito: It’s again, Tanahashi, the match at the Tokyo Dome this year. I felt that I surpassed the one who I always looked up to. Also, the Tokyo Dome is indeed a special place for me. It was my first singles match win in the Dome. I kept losing before, wondering how I could get it done at the Dome. However, after that match, I finally understood the awesomeness of unifying such a big place as the Dome, after ten years of my career.
Interviewer: Please, tell us what you have in mind for 2018.
Naito: I will think about that after I main event the Dome. The three goals I made when I was 15, were; 1, Become a New Japan pro-wrestler. 2, win the IWGP Heavyweight title in my 20s. 3, main event the Tokyo Dome. After I achieve this, I’ll know my new goal. Furthermore, not only keep L.I.J strong, but make it bigger. I want to make bigger waves. There once was the “nWo TYPHOON” movement by nWo Japan. The ring canvas was all black. I hope we can make something like that happen from L.I.J.